Authorities in Japan will soon have a new weapon at their disposal in the fight against COVID-19. The Diet on Wednesday passed two bills that allow authorities to levy fines on those that violate the government’s antivirus measures. But as Eric Johnston explains in a Q&A, not everyone is happy with the revisions.

While some critics say the new laws are not strong enough, experts tell Jiji that empathy and consideration will be key to keeping the coronavirus in check, not penalties, as fear of the virus among the public recedes. PM Suga should take a leaf from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s book, one speechwriter says. “Empathy is crucial in a moving speech,” stresses Shigenori Sasaki.

A year after the novel coronavirus first reared its ugly spiked head, what else have we learned? Commentator Christopher Hobson offers eight lessons from the pandemic, in terms of who we value, how we live our lives, and what gives it purpose. Perhaps most importantly, the crisis has highlighted the limits of our knowledge and made us appreciate the complexity of the world we all inhabit.

COVID-19 Monitoring Report — Tokyo’s New Normal (Feb. 4) | TOKYO METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT
COVID-19 Monitoring Report — Tokyo’s New Normal (Feb. 4) | TOKYO METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT

Returning to practicalities, with the latest extension of the state of emergency, foreign travelers looking to enter Japan will have to wait at least another month, with a total ban on new entries expected to remain in place through March 7, writes Magdalena Osumi.

The government also revised quarantine rules for citizens and residents returning from countries that have reported new coronavirus variants. With the most recent changes, which take effect today, people returning to Japan from Ireland, Israel and parts of Brazil will face stricter quarantine measures.

Thursday’s (and last Thursday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (50 or over): Tokyo 734 (1,064), Saitama 241 (292), Kanagawa 224 (433), Osaka 207 (397), Chiba 202 (314), Fukuoka 120 (185), Hokkaido 120 (115), Hyogo 111 (231), Aichi 101 (244), Okinawa 58 (98), Ibaraki 64 (60), Gunma 53 (38). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker